• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Zoom Chat Etiquette

A question about questions.

October 19, 2021

What’s the correct etiquette for the chat function in Zoom meetings?

I don’t mean this as some sort of exasperated sarcasm, or a “gotcha.” It’s an honest question.

An etiquette is starting to develop, but my kids sometimes tell me that entire new rules have become broadly understood before I even noticed. For instance, they tell me that ending a text message with a period is imperious. I thought of it as the way to end a sentence that wasn’t a question. Heaven only knows how many people I offended without having the slightest clue, a trail of unintended grammatical destruction in my wake. So I’m asking about chat.

I’ve seen a few different uses of chat so far, though this list is far from exhaustive.

The easiest is the direct individual message. I’ve been known to send these when someone’s cat makes an unscheduled guest appearance on screen. (It’s usually some variation on “aww.”) This kind is also useful for quick asides, whether of the shared-joke variety or of the “you have spinach in your teeth” variety. Just keep in mind that written humor can be quoted back later by people who don’t see it the same way.

Sometimes the chat serves as a bibliography: “I have the link. I’ll put it in the chat.” This is straightforward enough, and the usefulness is clear. It’s a form of virtual footnoting.

In webinars or public presentations, organizers will often use the chat as a venue for Q&A, or as a de facto back channel. That can work really well as long as the speaker isn’t also responsible for monitoring the chat. I learned the hard way that when the crowd is more than a few dozen, that can become unwieldy.

In meetings, though, where everyone is allowed to speak, I’m not quite sure about when questions should be spoken and when they should be typed into the chat. This is where I’m hoping my wise and worldly readers can shed some light.

Is there a generally accepted rule? Has someone codified this?

I can be reached at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter @deandad. Inside Higher Ed also accepts letters to the editor, if that’s preferable.



We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

Read the Letters to the Editor  »

Back to Top